Food prices, experts: “Trudeau’s plan is disingenuous”

TORONTO – “Parole, parole, parole” (“Words, words, words”), sang the Italian singer Mina in the 1970s, addressing the lover who promises and doesn’t keep. And they are just “words”, “parole” in Italian, according to experts, even those of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who summoned for tomorrow the leaders of the major Canadian food chains to ask them to stabilize food inflation, warning them that fiscal measures against them are on the table in case Canadians continue to face “crazy prices” at grocery stores. A plan that doesn’t make any sense, according to experts, who underline that the constant growth in prices does not depend (only) on food chains, but on everything that lies upstream: the war in Ukraine and all its collateral effects (starting from energy costs), extreme weather events… factors over which the federal government has no control. 

One such expert is Michael von Massow, a food economist at the University of Guelph, who told Global News that his “cynical”  view of the grocer summit is that it’s a “vague” and “disingenuous” proposal to give the appearance of action on food prices. According to him, food industry executives may be an “easy target” for Ottawa, but that doesn’t mean they themselves can solve food inflation with a snap of the fingers. Such a view, in fact, ignores the role played by other actors in the supply chain and global factors such as the war in Ukraine. “It (Trudeau’s plan) will not address the war in Ukraine, it will not address extreme weather events,” von Massow said.

Tomorrow, however, the summit called by Trudeau will be held. Loblaw President Galen G. Weston, Metro CEO Eric La Fleche and Walmart Canada CEO Gonzalo Gebara will participate, while representatives from Sobey’s parent company Empire Co. Ltd. and Costco will attend. they have not yet responded, Global News reports.

Sylvain Charlebois, director of Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, will also attend today’s meeting. And shares Massow’s analysis. Indeed, both told Global News that if a windfall tax or other “punitive” measures were implemented, as Trudeau implied, they would likely not have the effect of lowering prices at grocery stores. On the contrary. According to Charlebois, any additional tax burdens imposed on grocery stores would likely be negotiated to consumers themselves, thus making the situation worse.

In short, Trudeau’s plan seems more like an attempt to recover credibility, given the latest disastrous polls which see the Prime Minister’s Liberals fifteen points behind the Conservatives in percentage terms of voter approval.

Meanwhile, the price rally continues: Statistics Canada’s latest consumer price index showed growth rose 3.3 per cent year-on-year in July, while supermarket food prices rose by 8.5% in the same month. While still high, this has slowed from annual price increases of 9.1% in June and more than 11% last fall. But it’s still a drain.

Pic by Jeremy Smith from Pixabay